When writing new construction tips, one almost needs a crystal ball, and you definitely need to plan for an unknown future. It’s always been that way. Just think, if Great Grandpa had known that new fad called electricity was really going to catch on, he’d have installed more outlets. He might also have realized that the new toilet went in the main house, not in some tacked on shed off the back porch. Today’s rapid changes in technology, coupled with the growing energy and clean water issues are leading home construction in a direction that many contractors can’t quite see yet.
New Construction Tips #1: Your Home Should be Built to Endure
Durability is a major consideration as we look toward the future. A home should last over 150 years. Many of the homes built in the latter half of the previous century, are not going to make it. When planning your new home, consider risks and potential damage of high winds, earth quakes, heavy rains, flooding and even vandalism and home invasion in your design. Work towards indestructible durability.
Recommendations for Enduring Materials:
• Consider Insulated Concrete – Whether you use panels, forms, blocks or shotcrete techniques, insulated concrete is the most durable building material on the market today. Look for the most durable panels, forms or blocks. Consider concrete additives to make the concrete stronger.
• Heavier Lumber – While homes built in the last half of the 20th Century were built with two by fours, the greater homes of the previous centuries were built with much heavier lumber. Consider using two by six studs, and much heavier floor joists, than most modern homes.
• Natural Stone – Stone is very durable, but not a great insulator. If you decide to build with stone, it is better to build with insulated concrete or an insulated wood frame structure inside, and use the stone on the exterior. Stone is an excellent choice for a fireplace wall.
• Hardwood Floors – Hardwood floors can increase the durability of your home, if they are true hardwood floors. Some contractors only install thin laminates which really do not improve durability. Make sure, if you are paying for hardwood, to get real traditional hardwood floors.
Another reason for building thick walls is to accommodate more insulation. Energy efficiency is a crucial element in modern construction. Making a study of insulation materials it’s easy to see that there are a few modern insulation materials that are far superior to traditional insulation materials. Energy efficiency produced by excellent insulation is probably the best way to increase its value.
Recommendations for Superior Insulation:
• Closed Cell Insulation – Closed cell insulation can be blown into your walls and ceiling for maximum energy efficiency.
• Polyurethane Panels – Polyurethane panels can be placed tightly between studs, or used as a building material and then shot with sprayed concrete. The best insulated concrete panels also contain polyurethane panels. Polyurethane panels five or six inches thick provide maximum energy efficiency.
• Radiant Barrier Ceiling Insulation – The space inside and attic can reach 140 degrees in the summer. This can interfere with the efficiency of your air conditioning in the summer. It is a good idea to use radiant barrier insulation to reduce attic temperatures.
Solar or wind energy production should be part of your home building plan. With energy costs on the rise, your home can pay for itself with energy efficiency, by reducing or eliminating your electric bill. They can even yield a profit. Install solar energy panels, consider a solar boiler or hot water heater, and research how much wind you could expect to harvest in your location. Some areas receive more sun and wind than others. Solar energy technology is improving rapidly, so consider the latest technology, and investigate all the possibilities before you invest in a solar energy system.
Smaller more compact homes with efficient use of space are more practical than large sprawling homes. Today’s perfect home should be between 750 and 1500 square feet. Using space efficiently involves the use of multipurpose great rooms, and sufficient storage. When attempting to build a home with less square footage, people frequently omit closets, and this is a mistake. Build extra closets but eliminate hallways and entryways with efficient design. Smaller homes use less energy and create more intimate spaces for families to be together.
There are many products that save water, and should be part of your home planning. One really great option is an incinerator toilet. Incinerator toilets use no water, and instead burn wastes to ash. They cost about $1200 to $1500 and are the obvious answer for saving the water table from contamination. There is no need for toilet plumbing with an incinerator toilet, but you do need a special high voltage electrical outlet. If you will build your home in a rural area, they may eliminate the need for a septic system. Check with your local home inspector to see if you might get by without it if you install an incinerator toilet instead of using plumbing.
There are of course special showerheads to reduce water use, but did you know that you could plumb your tub so that your bath water would go into your sprinkler system? The same could be done with laundry water. Share your shower with your grass, and save water.
Consider fire and burglar alarms, but on a design level, also consider access. Of course access is also egress in the event of a fire, so don’t board yourself in completely. Instead shop for locks that will keep intruders out, and allow you to exit easily in the event of fire.
Today’s homes require a lot of extra electrical outlets, with ground fault safety features, battery backup systems and surge suppressors for electronic devices. Remember to protect your expensive electronic equipment from power surges and failures. The best time to do this is during construction, to avoid masses of tangled wires and numerous power strips. Ask your electrician and your IT professional about the best ways to have surge protection, Wi-Fi and growing energy needs built in.
When building a new home always build with an eye toward the future. We know that the internet for example is here to stay, and that electronics are of growing importance. We also know that energy conservation will continue to be an increasing factor for many years to come. For more information and new construction tips, read our many articles and download our 98 page book on the topic.